About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

19 Sep 1991: Morobe, Murphy

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Hello Murphy, this is Padraig O'Malley, how are you?

MM     Fine, how are you?

POM     Yesterday I sent out to you the copy of the transcript of the last interview. I have been holding it all summer. I didn't know if you were back in Johannesburg or still in the US so you should get it in a week or so.

MM     OK, oh you sent it by post?

POM     I sent it by post, yes. When I had it last May I didn't know whether you were still in the US or whether you had gone back to SA. Anyway, let me start by asking you about your experience in the US. You must have had the opportunity to travel at least in the area of New York and must have seen the conditions in which many blacks live in the inner cities here. What did you learn about the manner in which the minority here is treated and is there any chance that blacks in the squatter camps and townships in SA could end up in a somewhat similar situation?

MM     Well, Padraig, let me just say that I have been to the US before but this was the first time when I could travel around and talk to people and go to various places, institutions, schools. I even went as far as the Appalachian areas to meet people there. I must say that it was a very illuminating experience for me not so much because I didn't know anything but it more or less confirmed some of the things, some of the views I had picked up or developed on American society in general. One of the things that struck me very much was the actual racial equation in America today in spite of the way the US is projected as a great democracy. There is a strong sense in which one gets struck by how much of racism still prevails and is such a factor in the determination of the way many things happen in that society. I would say that even the inner city problems that many American cities are faced with today is in itself very much in fact a function of that particular problem and the fact that the education system, the situation as regards jobs and employment, it's a major problem. I'm not saying here that there are no exceptions. I would say that by and large many people are trying to make a difference but one of the overbearing issues at the moment is in fact very much that question of race in America and I actually saw it as something that's really hidden behind the constitution, the bill of rights, etc., and that many Americans still have a very strong racial attitudes. That to me was a very disturbing trend in fact.

POM     Do you see the white minority here even when there is majority rule still harbouring similar sentiments of racism?

MM     In the US?

POM     No in SA. My question is, despite the performance of the US economy, despite civil rights bills, despite affirmative action, there are huge portions of the black community, the Afro-American community in the US living in the direst of circumstances and marginalised in society and that relates in a broad sense to the pervasive racism in the US. So my question is, is there a chance that a similar kind of racism will continue to prevail in SA after majority rule?

MM     Oh sure. I mean I actually think that there's a very strong sense of that and in any case my honest opinion is that even ten, fifteen, twenty years beyond democratic rule in SA you will still have those things because a lot of it has to do with attitude, it has to do with what people have been inculcated into over decades and even centuries for that matter. The only difference actually gets made where there is a conscious national effort to address that problem as of major national concern. But at the same time I think that it's going to be a question of what institutions are put in place to address that issue so that you don't have situation where all are supposed to rest on their laurels and believe that the constitution will look after the problems because the real issue here is how these things in fact are entrenched in people's minds and people in their day to day activities begin acting some of the prejudices out. That is a major concern and I think that SA will be no exception to the rule.

POM     Last year you said that achieving political empowerment in itself doesn't mean very much, that what will matter will be social and economic empowerment. Do you think that the parameters of the redistribution will have to be negotiated as part of the constitutional settlement? In other words that there must be a clear understanding among all the parties of the degree of redistribution that would have to take place over a number of years as distinct from concrete agreement on the mechanisms that might be employed?

MM     Absolutely, Padraig. I think that if we were going to have a situation where the forces of liberation were going to shoot their way into Pretoria, I would imagine that the outcome or the process beyond that would be a very different one. But given the fact that all South Africans, at least the major players, seem actually to be very much agreed on the fact that negotiation is a much more preferred route at the moment to resolve the issues, it stands to reason that without actually having set that as a basic premise from whence we shall actually proceed, you would need also to look at those questions that you have raised in those terms to say, look, if we agree that so much wrong has been done in the past and here are the results, here in fact are the consequences of these policies of deliberately depriving people, of deliberately excluding people from power, from economic activity and economic independence, then given the poverty that those policies have actually visited this should be what we define all of us as South Africans as being the major tasks which we should all actually engage in. I think that perhaps looking at the thing historically may sound very ambitious but I think that just from the way things have been evolving here it is still very possible that at some point in fact as the process unfolds we may actually emerge out of this process with the very strong, or what some other people have started referring to as a social contract that would be a contract which would bind all the major players from the incoming government to business and community organisations to say these are the developmental priorities for SA and we all bind ourselves to those and whatever we do will be actually predicated upon the extent to which our social activities would contribute to what in fact that overall developmental prerogative they have set.

POM     You mention the word 'wrong' there and I think one thing that has struck me in my visits to SA is the absence of any sentiment among the white community that apartheid has in fact been wrong and no acknowledgement on their part that they must admit this wrong and in a sense ask for the forgiveness of the black community. The sense I get it that whites say, OK, let's get on with the new SA, apartheid or separate development was a failure, the intention was good but it was implemented the wrong way but there was nothing morally wrong with it. Do you know what I mean?

MM     Yes. Let's face it if you could have that kind of sentiment being expressed from the white community as unambiguously as possible I think it would make a very big difference in terms of attitude and I think that if white South Africans can do that they would actually realise the extent to which Africans in this country are a forgiving people. I think even as things stand, even without that kind of overall apology from the white community, we still have a situation where if you look at South Africans, or black South Africans, you would actually find that even the amount of bitterness that is there but there is a clear understanding and acceptance of the common destiny of all of us and I think people just want to have their lot changed for the better and get on with the day to day duty of living. It will be a great day when we finally have from the representatives of the white community, in fact a categorical statement actually saying that this is what we have done in the past, it was very wrong, they want to move forward, we want you to forgive us for all those things. I think that's one of the most mature things to do. That seems to be one of the prerogatives still being harboured by politicians who don't want to do that. But at other levels where we meet with our fellow country-people, I mean some of the whites we meet, you do get that statement. Some of the people we've met they actually say these things to us, etc., but then in a situation where you have tensions being so strong between the groups it can make a big difference if their representatives could be unambiguous about the sentiment. But I personally don't think that it would be correct for us to prosecute the struggle from now on with a view to extracting an apology from them. I don't think that should be guiding our actions.

POM     Do you think that whites are accepting of the changes that have taken place and that will take place? I say that by looking at the result of a survey that was carried out in the last couple of months in SA, it was a survey of white metropolitan voters and two thirds of them were still opposed to giving the full franchise to blacks. This was even true among educated whites, there was no real difference between different educational groups. Does that surprise you?

MM     No it doesn't actually surprise me. It's a disturbing trend of course, assuming that it's a trend that's likely to increase but I don't think it is a trend which shows an increase. I think it's basically a trend which I would rather choose to interpret in the positive to say the fact that there is at least a percentage which do feel, who have accepted the need for everyone to enjoy equal rights and actually have the vote, is in itself a positive thing. If one considers where we come from in this country then the fact that we have these two thirds, as is being said, is to me nothing else but a reflection of the challenge that still lies ahead, not only for me as an African but even for those other whites who have come around to accepting the need in fact for the broadening of democracy in this country. So I would actually say that surveys like those are useful but it is important that we are able to understand them for what they really portend or what they actually indicate to us and I think they are just an indication of the fermentation that is there. It is only a matter of for those who are the actual conscious actors in influencing change to take the gaps and take those advantages and move the process forward. I think we will never have a situation where 100% of whites believe strongly the same thing, just like we will not have the same situation amongst blacks so I am not really very much concerned about that.

POM     When you were here in the US you had an opportunity to evaluate the coverage by the media of what was going on in SA. Did you find that the media were accurately portraying what was going on or did you find it a partial and somewhat misleading portrayal in view of what you know about the situation itself?

MM     I can tell you this much that there are certain limitations which in fact the commercial media has got, also largely because of the competition amongst the media on this and you find that much of what gets covered in some of the reports on SA, a lot of the stuff which one could say was sensational stuff. So sensational stuff by its very nature is not necessarily reflective of the overall picture of any particular situation. I found that kind of thing very disturbing and of course at the time when I was in the US the story of SA, like many other stories at that time, was in fact secondary and even tertiary to Americans at that point because we then had the crisis in the Gulf and the war that broke out there, so I understood then that SA would not necessarily receive a lot of coverage. But those that covered SA I think there was a general tendency to focus on the sensational. I am not even suggesting that these were things that were concocted, it's just that the sensational stuff was there like the violence, etc. And of course understanding that for anything more substantial, media like you find in newspapers in America, there's a very distinct disadvantage that good stories about anything have got in that situation.

POM     There was also, I'm sure you noticed it, an increasing capacity on the part of the media here to describe the violence in the Transvaal as ethnic violence, as being violence between Xhosa and Zulu. Did you find that disturbing or would you have found that a gross misrepresentation, a correct representation, or that the truth lay some place in between but they just placed too much emphasis on the ethnic part?

MM     There is nothing that goes - many of us who spend so much of our time organising people and campaigning for an end or in fact against the government's ethnic policies, to find in fact people who are charged with the task of informing the public and giving the public a view that is not entirely correct of what the actual situation is on the ground because all accounts that have subsequently emanated as to what lies behind this violence have clearly indicated, they have still shown that much of what is seen happening as violence in this area has not really been so much about Zulus hating Xhosas or anything like that but it's been very much a situation where elements within the security forces are taking advantage of some of the differences that are there between various groups and actually deliberately fomenting these tensions with a view to presenting a picture of the whites as being the only homogeneous and harmonious group and everybody else as being disgruntled and involved in conflicts. I think that the treatment of this subject has been grossly misleading and it is not really reflective of the nature of the problem on the ground because when conflicts happen in the townships, when people get shot in the trains and it is reported purely as a clash between the ANC and Inkatha, that report does not say that the people who were shot are not necessarily Xhosas or Sothos only, many of them are also Zulus, so it has an element of being indiscriminate about it. It has been sheer acts of terrorism and increasingly reports are beginning to suggest that what is happening has not been very different from what we saw happening in Mozambique with the formation of Renamo, etc. So it's a different question as to what could be the motive behind those who are actually perpetrating this or encouraging it.

POM     Why do you think the violence is so grossly misrepresented here? Many of the journalists who cover the South Africa beat, at least for the major news media, are sophisticated people with a wide range of contacts and journalists I think, in the end, a large measure would be sympathetic to the liberation movement. Why the gross misrepresentation?

MM     I'm not even suggesting that in totality it was deliberate acts of misrepresentation.

POM     Oh no, I'm not suggesting that either, but what do you think?

MM     What I am saying is that I think there is a limitation in the way in which I think foreigners tend to understand the situation here and the way in which various groups relate to one another and especially coming to this whole question of the ethnic component of the struggle, of the conflict in the townships and the various areas. In a number of talks I gave I did concede the fact that in this conflict that is taking place there is no doubt that there is an element that actually relates to the fact that one group or the other is Zulu. Some of the arguments about the ethnicity of the conflict have not been able to actually explain the conflict as it pertained in Natal where predominantly in fact over 99% of the people involved there are actually Zulu. So it was very much more political than ethnic in terms of its actual status on the ground. So I actually think that the correct interpretation is that you're dealing with two political tendencies, one conservative and traditionalist and one progressive and it is basically at that level.

POM     But to talk about ethnicity for a moment, let me recount to you some of the experiences I had in talking to people about it. When I would talk to people you would label as progressive whites they would say, yes, ethnicity is a factor overall but it's not talked about, at least it's not talked about in their circles because if one were to say I think there's an ethnic factor here, one would be considered to be an apologist for the government or a racist. So rather than being labelled that, it just never takes place. I have a couple of questions. One, is ethnicity a real factor that must be dealt with in a new constitution so that it precludes the possibility or the potential for conflict in the future? Is it a factor that is not talked about, that is dismissed mostly as being a product of apartheid itself and not something that might exist in its own right?

MM     Well I think that one is not going to be denying the fact of ethnicity as an important factor especially given the multiplicity of ethnic groups in SA. I think that we recognise that even in UDF from the early days when they started talking about organising in the so-called Bantustans. It was when we organised in those Bantustans one of the first things that strikes you as an organiser is the fact that you're dealing with territories that are ethnically divided as such. So the whole question of what ethnicity means in terms of its psychological and cultural impact upon the entire political situation becomes an issue that any new constitution has got to deal with and the big debate, and I think the big question, is actually how do you deal with it at the constitutional level? Do you deal with it in such a way that you entrench it in its most reactionary and vacuous form or in fact you make a recognition of the existence of racial or different cultural groups in SA with a view towards ensuring that all the positive features of the various cultural aspects actually be thrown out to cherish or rather to nourish the overall national cultural development. So it's at that level where the debate is going to be thrust because I actually believe strongly to actually ignore and pretend that it's not an issue, it's not there, I think that will be very naïve indeed and I think if anything at all the situation in the Soviet Union in particular and what you see happening in Yugoslavia is actually churning out a very real lesson for us and experiences which we just have to learn from. But the major question of course, it's not really whether you recognise it or you don't recognise it but having recognised it's being, what do you do about it and how do you go about doing what you do in a way that will not actually lead to the dismemberment of the country and the disintegration of society?

POM     Some people have suggested to me that whatever ethnic differences exist were created by the state, they are a creation of apartheid as part of the policy of separation to divide and rule. So that's one position which leads you to a different set of conclusions or policy options. Another conclusion might be that ethnic differences exist in their own right and they were exacerbated and manipulated by the government for its purposes but the seeds of the differences were already there, it's just that the government was able to plough a fertile field.

MM     Well I think I would actually hold the latter view to say that in their own right you have different ethnic groups, etc., just like you have them amongst whites for example, especially if you take into account SA in the way in which the various groups exist within what is generally termed as being the white group. Now in their situation the term ethnic is not being used and they all in fact are recognised as white constitutionally. Now there is no doubt that the white government has actually used ethnicity insofar as it affects blacks in a way in which to cause divisions and to actually make sure that no unity actually emanates amongst these various groups so that only the white groups can actually get together. There is no doubt about that.

     Now I wouldn't agree that ethnicity is a government creation because I think for that to happen I think it would take more than the 40 [he actually said 300 years] years of the Nationalist Party being in power. However, the fact is that as far as I'm concerned I actually look at the question of ethnicity and the broader South Africanism as processes that need not actually clash with one another depending on how in fact society gets itself structured, depending on how the various ethnic groups actually are allowed to actually practice their own languages and different cultural groups. The challenge for anyone who is in government, in authority, is to actually channel all these different energies from these groups into a conscious mass of South Africanism amongst these various groups.

     So that is a major challenge and I think that one of the things that the government knew and which any serious scholar of history or sociology would know is that over time given various social and economic relations of production, the various groups that actually emerge or come together end up developing a much more closer consciousness of one another as one people as was happening in the mines in the thirties, in the forties with the development of industry, etc. But what the NP did was in recognition of this natural historical progression taking place of people coming together, being brought together by industry, they deliberately put in place blocking mechanisms to ensure that what was going to be a natural progression arising out of people coming together and working together and staying together does not happen and actually sought to enforce divisions by law and sought to actually instil in people the fact that they are different and they will never come together with anybody else. I think that is the tragedy and that is the legacy of this government's policies.

POM     One last question on the whole question of ethnicity, if you look at the history of Africa since, say, 1967 I think with one exception you have no case of where power was passed from one freely elected government to another freely elected government. Either the country became a one-party state or one party had such an advantage that elections were in fact meaningless. What do you think would preclude SA going in that direction and what do you think are the dangers that might lead it in that direction?

MM     I think what could preclude SA going in that direction is basically the experience of our own liberation movement which has actually been located in all these countries over these years and we have seen what has happened and I think that at the level of our people's organisations and the leadership, etc., there is a clear realisation of, in fact, the effects of a blandness to the way in which the ethnic issue is actually treated. Now the policies of the NP have clearly led us to a situation where that spectre hangs much more vividly over SA than would have been the case if in fact the NP did not go out of its way to actually try to entrench these divisions even by employing the force of law and if that is to happen in this country I think it is only the NP that would be the blame.

     But be that as it may, I think in 1991 if one follows the constitutional proposals of the ANC, if you follow the debate about the Bill of Rights, there is a clear recognition and indication of the fact that people have learnt from those experiences and those documents, those proposals attempt to address specifically some of those lessons that Africa and other countries of the third world have taught for us as a way of trying to put in place a system which would be immune in fact from those kind of shortcomings.

POM     So in a certain sense the liberation movement has the benefit of the learning curve of other countries, you derive a certain advantage from being the last one out of the block so to speak?

MM     That's right, yes. I always say that perhaps we are the luckiest going to be the last to get away in the end in freedom in Africa. I think we would have to be absolute fools not to have learnt from those lessons in Africa and even in Moscow, even in Poland, whatever. Those are really historical experiences that actually must mean a lot for us and what we seek to achieve in this country.

POM     Turning to something else, Murphy, this must sound like a fairly simple question but I ask it because of the variety of responses that I have received to it. The question is: what is the nature of the problem that the negotiators from the various parties must seek to resolve when they sit around the negotiating table? Now, for example, you have those who will say the problem is the domination of the black majority by the white minority. There are those who say the problem is the competition between two broadly based nationalisms, white nationalism and black nationalism. Those who will say, yes, there are racial differences but within each racial group you have severe ethnic cleavages that post the potential for conflict in the future. You have those who will say that the real problem is the problem of the mal-distribution of resources, it's a case of the advantaged versus the disadvantaged. If you had to brief the negotiators from the various parties as they sat down at the table, if you had to brief them as to the essential nature of the problem they were there to deal with how would you describe it?

MM     In trying to describe the situation I think I will take the first point and the last point together as being the key issue that any negotiating team is faced with because between these two points, the one of domination of blacks by whites and the problem of mal-distribution of resources, those two are intricately intertwined given the way in which SA society has evolved since 1652 in particular. And the other two is between, I actually think that they arise basically as consequences of the way in which the first and the last points have actually been dealt with in the country and I believe that if you begin to address that, invariably the whole question of white nationalism and black nationalism also begin to fall in place. I say this because the addressing of the two implies that they have certain premises or certain parameters that they have to define as being the negotiating parties. The one basic premise that they will be moving from will be that we are all South Africans and the second premise will be that you do not live in isolation, you live as part of the international community. There are certain things that befall you as South Africans that are obligatory upon you and there are certain obligations that you will have to meet as part of the international community.

POM     That's why the question of a social contract really assumes such importance I would think.

MM     Precisely. You see what is happening here is the process unfolds and as the way the NP has been laying out its plans for the future it is quite clear that the NP and big business in particular have long ago come to the realisation that you no longer need the apartheid superstructure in order to perpetuate white domination and control of resources. That is now entrenched and all you need to do is just to make certain changes that give people a semblance of participation, then the rest will be fine. And that was the attempt of the tricameral parliament that because we understood that we opposed it and the challenge is to a point where today they had to accept that they should negotiate with the ANC and other parties. But even as they are beginning to do that it is quite clear that central to their strategy is actually to work out a way in which white privilege continues to be protected even at the expense of actually keeping the black majority or most people perpetually subjugated in terms of access to resources, etc. So that is where the serious problem is. That's why I think just removing the laws in themselves does not really address the question fundamentally because the question goes beyond just mere participation in parliament.

POM     You know this economic scenario report that was prepared by Nedbank and Sanlam?

MM     I actually was outside when that scenario came in. I'm actually attending my first one next week.

POM     You are, yes. Well it's a fairly pessimistic report. It ended up by saying that for SA to make it it needs three miracles. It needs a political miracle, a social miracle and an economic miracle, that the chances of getting one miracle are low, the chances of getting three are remote. The extent of the problem when one looks at the figures one after the other, it paints a pretty devastating picture of the state of the economy and the options that are open to it. I suppose I keep coming back to just the dynamics of it. On the one hand you have a white government that is reluctantly relinquishing power, in fact that insists on talking about the sharing of power, not the transfer of power, that wants to maintain its economic privilege. And on the other hand you have changes that must be made in the economy to bring about fundamental change and the two seem to be on a collision course.

MM     That's the big challenge that we are faced with at the moment and I think that nothing else typifies that more than the current debate over the introduction of value added tax in this country where the government has accepted that it is not legitimate in the eyes of most South Africans and it is willing to negotiate, yet at the same time it still apportions to itself the right to continue levying taxes on the majority. Whilst a case can be made that you need to continue to have funds coming in in order to address development but it's a major question as to how you continue to maintain the balance and integrity in prosecuting the process of change and in continuing to have in power in fact a government which in the eyes of many is still perceived as a minority government however worthy the goals may be in terms of their reasons for instituting a new tax law.

POM     Just to go back to the nature of the problem again. When I talk to, say, members of the NP or the government and they describe the nature of the problem in very different ways than do members of the ANC, is it difficult to get real negotiations going between two parties who essentially hold very different views as to the purpose of the process they're involved in? The government, the NP talks about this process is about the sharing of power, the ANC and PAC would say this process is about the transfer of power. It looks as though both sides are not on the same wavelength. Does that pose a problem or is that one of things you thrashed out?

MM     It does pose a problem, however I think the gap is no longer as wide as it was five, or even eight years ago. I actually understand, I appreciate the fact that it should be history if the NP would wake up tomorrow and say, well chaps we've done a very bad job, please come in here and make a good job of it. All what they've done clearly still indicates that whilst recognising the shortcomings and the difficulties that lie ahead the present NP government still is not able to think of itself as being out of power and that is one of the major problems. It's going to be a major stumbling block especially in the speed with which the process unfolds because at every turn whatever proposals they will be coming up with they will be containing within them very strong elements or sections or areas that would be calculated towards ensuring that power in some form or the other still remains within their grasp. They don't imagine themselves as being out of power, let alone what they say publicly, but their practice indicates a government which is only willing to accommodate everybody else around them. They are not actually willing to contemplate themselves as not being in the driver's seat. The major part of the conflict is going to centre around that.

POM     Let's stay on the question of the government for a moment. Mr Mandela has said repeatedly throughout 1990 that the government itself is behind the violence in the townships and many people see Inkathagate as the final almost irrefutable proof of government involvement in many covert activities including the orchestration of violence. In your view have you any doubt at all that the government is involved in the perpetuation of this violence?

MM     I have been a victim of this government's laws of detention without trial and I have been in situations where a number of people I have known actually got killed whilst we were all together in detention, they died in detention. I have seen and read and heard how the government at every turn whenever those things happened came out in defence of the police even though we knew exactly what we were going through in those detention cells. Many people died and up to now the government has yet to lift a finger and point at the police. A number of incidents have happened recently and revelations around the state security operations, etc. Now as far as those questions are concerned I have no doubt. Of course if you asked me to provide the evidence it would be difficult because at the same time I will say that whatever evidence has come out of revelations volunteered by former members of the state's own security forces is enough of an indictment for any government in a democratic situation to have been removed from power, but not this one. So clearly, therefore, the whole question of the statement that Mr Mandela made on the government and their complicity in some of these things I think to me it's not even a debatable issue, it's a well known thing but the SA intelligence services and the secret services have, even in spite of the isolation of SA world forums, have always continued to have good relationships at the level of intelligence and information gathering with other secret services like the Israeli one, like the British MI5 and even the CIA so because they were part of the whole world situation that defined the problem even in SA as an east/west problem so it was understood that our fighting for liberation was also classed as part of that world-wide struggle against so-called communism. It doesn't shock me, it doesn't surprise me. It's just an indication for me of how far this government has gone. And even as President de Klerk has announced that he's called for an end to secret projects that doesn't convince us because there are a number of incidents that continue to happen even as those announcements have been made. The way in which the police conduct themselves in situations from time to time tells us that for de Klerk to announce that secret operations have ended is not enough unless that announcement can be actually verified independently so that everybody is clear that this government is beginning on a clean slate and it does not carry with it all those skeletons of the past.

POM     Do you believe that the government is consciously engaged in following a double agenda, that is the olive branch of negotiations on the one hand and on the other a concerted attempt to undermine and destroy the ANC in the townships?

MM     Given the experience that I have and many of us have there is nothing that the government is doing now which can convince one that this is a totally new government, it does not pursue its strategy in the original way in which it was conceived. The perception of the government strategy of the total onslaught is that there is a white race which must be saved and this is the only white race in Africa and therefore the question of power becomes very vital to its survival in the long term. So whatever alterations we do to the system let us make sure that at the end of the day we are still in the position whereby we can actually wield power. That is why even in terms of the constitution they are trying to come up with a formulation which is to give us a constitution which will be toothless, we shall be held to ransom by a minority who would present themselves as a racial group. What I am saying, therefore, is that much of one's conviction about what the government's intentions are has got nothing to do with what one things or imagines, it's actually based on their actual practice on a day-to-day basis.

POM     So in your view the NP has a clear understanding of what it wants at this negotiation process and a clearly defined strategy for getting there?

MM     So far even though they themselves have been pushed into the situation through our own pressure but they are trying to manage the process in such a way that their own agenda is the one in the end that predominates. One could argue that what can you expect otherwise from any political party? True, but then at least the point I'm saying is that we are aware of those intentions.

POM     Which brings me to Inkathagate. Do you think Inkathagate was a very significant event, perhaps a turning point of some description, or that it was important in its own right but has no real significance for the long run?

MM     I think the real significance of that Inkathagate, as far as I'm concerned, is it gave a pointer as to the rottenness of the government and its operations, but it also it gave a small confirmation. For me it is not something that came up as new. I think we always knew that that was the case. I think the significance, at least at that level, at the very high profile level, the exposé had such an impact that many people who never used to believe us when we said these things before were actually given incontrovertible evidence of the positions that we were actually stating, that in fact at the end of the day it can logically be concluded that these guys are nothing else but an extension of Pretoria. So that's what Inkathagate was all about.

POM     The ANC response to it was very low keyed. It didn't jump all over the government. Was there a reason for that?

MM     Well I wouldn't know what the ANC's strategy was exactly in the way in which they responded but it's true that many people do feel that the government was let off the hook quite easily from that one although it's not difficult to imagine that perhaps the ANC's response could have been based on just the reading of the various responses and reactions both internally and world-wide to say that in fact whatever they could do could not do anything more to rub the issue of what the lesson that Inkatha gave throughout because Washington, Germany and all of them actually read the message. I think that there are others who still have a strong feeling that more could have been done but personally I'm not sure how much more could have been done because I actually think that we have this anomaly in this country but even after such a scandal gets revealed these guys still remain in power. This wasn't the first one, we have had similar scandals before. After all we didn't elect them into power but the problem also here reflects with the constituency, the white constituency, it was also a reflection of the extent to which the mental frame of whites in SA regarding government was the way in which it was.

POM     How about political winners and losers? Who gained, who lost and in particular what did it do to Buthelezi?

MM     Well I think that what this scandal did, it actually really put Buthelezi and Inkatha on the defensive on a whole number of fronts and there is no doubt that ordinary people on the ground actually lost because of the way in which they have been treated by this government and also because of the way of what most of those funds that have actually been siphoned into Inkatha and those other organisations, what those funds have been used for, the mayhem, the destruction, etc., that has resulted out of government's secret manipulations and utilisation of public funds. So in the end I think that even though the ANC may claim victory and say that we have been vindicated in what we have been saying but when checked against in fact what ordinary people had to go through I think that it is going to take some time before those scars are actually redressed.

POM     Some people have suggested to me that it has done irreparable harm to Buthelezi, that he would really have no standing in the black community anywhere in the country outside of KwaZulu. Do you think it has done him irreparable harm? Do you think he is now broadly perceived by the black community as a whole as being a puppet of the government?

MM     Well maybe not saying the black community as a whole but certainly the majority in the black community which is the same majority which has perceived him as such in the past. I think they will also be holding the view with even much greater conviction today than perhaps was the case five years ago.

POM     Is he still what I would call a 'major player'? That is major in the sense that there cannot be a peaceful settlement without his being a very important part of it?

MM     I think we're going to have a situation where given the way in which the situation unfolds or will unfold that he will continue to feature in the process. As to what he will get out of it or as to how high, at what level he's going to be featuring it's difficult to tell at the moment but you have a situation here, if one just takes the Mozambican experience, that however else most people throughout the world hold Alfonso ... and his Renamo bandits, the fact of the matter is that the Mozambican government has also come to a point where they've had to talk to him. Now if for anything, perhaps for no other reason but to actually save the country and actually save the Mozambican people and provide them with the space to actually develop themselves, that would be a necessary vote for people to take because at the end I think it's probably not so much in fact the egos of the politicians but in fact what should be considered as being in the interests of the country and of the people as a whole.

POM     I suppose what I'm getting at is does Buthelezi's capacity to precipitate violence give him an importance that he wouldn't otherwise have if he weren't in that position?

MM     I think so yes, I think it does.

POM     One of the major successes of the UDF was its ability to bring together whites, Coloureds, Indians and Africans under one umbrella to make the liberation movement truly non-racial. It seems that the ANC itself is having trouble making inroads into the white community, into the Coloured community and into the Indian community, a difficulty that they acknowledged themselves at their conference. Why do you think this simply wasn't a transfer of people who were members or supporters of the UDF automatically into the ANC? Why do you think the ANC is experiencing this kind of trouble?

MM     Well I think much of the problems are really more organisational than political and even in terms of transfer of UDF people to the ANC that as far as I'm concerned it's not something that has been understood as something that will happen automatically. ANC positions as ANC positions also need to be won amongst people and I actually think that in trying to look for an answer I can actually look at it in terms of the way in which the legalisation of the ANC happened and the period within which that happened and the various things and conflict and violence that was unleashed and the negative impact it has had in a whole range of areas not only amongst Indians, Coloureds and whites but even amongst Africans, that you do have serious problems especially where violence comes and I think that it is easy to understand why because if you are the NP you would know that if you actually keep people engaged in violence and promote and proliferate and actually even execute violence amongst them you will have a situation where political work is going to suffer and that actually through that the other party can be incapacitated in trying to take the high ground. So that's part of the political game in SA but I actually think that given a more peaceful situation with peace being given a chance after the Peace Convention with a situation where people can freely exchange views and actually recruit members and set up organisations, I think that we would see a major improvement.

POM     If this Peace Accord is not successful, if the violence continues at 1991 levels, is it possible to have meaningful or real negotiations in those circumstances or is some cessation of violence almost a precondition for successful negotiations?

MM     I honestly don't think you need to put that as an absolute precondition for successful negotiations because I believe you would be putting an impossible precondition to meet given the fact that in this conflict you probably would have organised formations and you'll have unorganised formations unaccountable to anybody so you can't hold the entire negotiation process ransom to those elements who would not in fact fall behind a national approach. I think you will find that it will be the few who would be involved in those things and the majority of people want peace that's for sure and I think negotiations will be strengthened by the fact. We've had experiences in world history where negotiations did not have to stop because there was violence. In most situations in fact it is actually negotiations that eventually bring violence to an end, not the other way round.

POM     Do you think that good faith, having a certain element of trust in your adversary, is necessary in a negotiating process?

MM     Absolutely. I mean there is no doubt about the fact, and even that is not something that comes automatically, something that you have to work on and develop over time. It may take up to 15 to 20 meetings before you come to a point where you say that you have established good faith, etc. In some situations it may be the thing that brings it together from the word go so it's important always to establish good faith in negotiations.

POM     Doesn't this mean that the government has to go a long way before it will be trusted by the ANC? How can you trust an adversary who on the one hand are saying we want to negotiate with you and on the other hand is orchestrating the slaughter of hundreds of your people in order to undermine you and weaken you politically?

MM     I think that's one of the big leaps the ANC has taken. I think Christians would call it a leap of faith or something in having come to a point where you bring all your forces back inside the country even before the finalisation of any constitutional arrangement. I could say that it is perhaps something that is enforced by the reading of the situation that whatever happens you've come to a situation where the playing field is going to operate according to very different rules at different levels.

POM     This brings up the question of an interim government. It seems to me that Inkathagate with the revelations of the government funding of the DTA in Namibia despite its signing an agreement at the UN to remain an impartial administrator during the election process, that this lends great weight to the ANC's call for an interim government. Now it has called for the government to resign and become part of an all party government and my question is: has that become almost a non-negotiable precondition? Must the government resign?

MM     I think that is one of the points that is being taken up very strongly by the ANC and the other parties. I personally can't see it happening in any other way because I believe that that question of the interim government tries to address itself to the problem of this government becoming player and referee. You need to have some type of interim authority which is not just rubber-stamping or just there to be. You would need a situation where the government is not player and referee at the same time that it calls for an interim arrangement. The debate now is going to be what exactly is that interim arrangement going to be. We call it an interim government. They talk of interim arrangements. The PAC has started talking of an interim authority. So I think that the stage is getting set for an interesting debate on that issue.

POM     But it's not absolutely necessary that the government resign is it? Or is that taken as no matter what happens this must take place, this government must see its authority and its own sense of legitimacy?

MM     Oh yes, I think that moving from our own position that will be an more ideal situation, most acceptable situation that you don't have this government, that we have a different, a new authority power. But as the thing gets negotiated one can't tell beforehand how exactly is its shape going to be. Presumably at some point we would need also to come to a question of how do you determine the role of impartial observers who played that role. Is it the UN, is it the OAU, etc.? And how is its role going to be defined?

POM     But realistically can you think of any set of circumstances in which the government might be prepared to resign? What would happen to the NP if de Klerk went to parliament tomorrow morning and announced that he was dissolving his government in order to become part of an all-party government? Would that not produce a backlash of immense proportions? Would not that be contrary to their whole sense of themselves, be contrary to their penchant for holding on to power, not giving it up?

MM     No doubt, I think any move you take in whatever direction is going to have spin-offs, consequences, and I think that the challenge for negotiators is to weigh consequences on all sides and determine which ones will be the consequences we will be prepared to live with and actually cope with. So for all we know in fact it may be less traumatic than we perhaps imagine but if we have the situation, if we don't have a situation like that with the government stepping down, we still have crisis of confidence on the part of the oppressed majority whose views I think also should matter just as much as the fears of whites do matter. So I think it's going to require something close to the skills of God to pull this together.

POM     The skills of God? Sorry, you said it would require something close to the skills of?

MM     God, to pull this together.

POM     Just a couple more questions, Murphy, and thanks for the amount of time you're giving me. The right wing, last year there was a lot of talk about the increase in support for the Conservative Party and speculation that it might even command more than half of the white vote if a white's only election were held. This year one doesn't hear so much about the CP and the AWB really just came to attention once at Ventersdorp. Would you distinguish between the CP and the AWB? Is the CP in a process of marginalising itself if it continues with its tactic of saying we will participate in nothing until the right to self-determination of the white people in SA is acknowledged?

MM     I'm sorry, I'm missing the question.

POM     Is the CP in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant and becoming marginalised if it continues to say it will not participate in the process until they are given an undertaking that the right of the white people of SA to self-determination is acknowledged?

MM     I think they run the danger of that because even they, the right wing themselves, are not agreed about exactly what they want in terms of their demands although there may be a commonness in the way in which they desire a white homeland or white rule, as they say. But there's no unanimity even amongst themselves about where that is supposed to be and how that's going to be delineated and defined. So they have a real problem in actually bringing everybody to an understanding as to what is it that they are really crying about and it's also a question of whether will the rest be prepared to let go of that which they actually define as historically theirs. My own view is that it is not an idea that is going to be realisable. However, it still does not detract from the fact that if the CP has a case or has desires or demands they should also have the right to add those views and let them be heard but do you see them come up with viable ways of actually achieving their goal if it's achievable because I think it's not.

POM     But do you think they have support? Is the CP intact or is it still growing or is it falling off?

MM     I've not heard a survey. I'm sure one of the ways you can be certain of that is by their performance in a number of by-elections, etc. They have come up, they have actually had some very strong showings but as to what that means in terms of the whole country it's very difficult indeed. Remember that constitutionally elections take place every five years and all what is quite clear is that this government seems to be holding fast. It's not keen on going to an election and the CP is going to be faced with a situation where it's not going to be possible for them to get a situation where they will have an election with the white government, with the NP. I don't see that as being possible at all at this point in time. When I say possible, not very likely.

POM     Last year you talked about how quickly the process was proceeding and that it was in the government's interests to move ahead as quickly as possible. Yet since this time last year things seem to have slowed down considerably.

MM     After I made that statement last year I think the thing slowed down quite considerably for a whole lot of reasons. That's why even when I think that I felt content in the knowledge that I am not going to be losing very much.

POM      That it slowed down by that point?

MM     After that point, for most of last year up till today we've had so many blockages being thrown in, etc. It's only now that we're beginning to have some discernible movement beginning to take place again.

POM     This is with the Patriotic Front coming up?

MM     With the Patriotic Front and there's increasing talk of the all-party conference taking place this year. We've had the National Peace Accord recently so it's beginning to get into the system.

POM     Are you hopeful about that Accord or do you think the violence is so grassroots connected that it's very difficult to impose structures from above on controlling it?

MM     I'm so much in need of peace that I can only think of myself as being hopeful when I look at that document, but of course it's not a hope, my hope is one which is peppered with much realism on my part and that is a realism that even as one talks about peace I think peace is a very relative concept itself. So for me it's more a question of at this point as a matter of immediacy how we immediately bring down the level of killing that is taking place and in the medium term it's a question of how you instil a spirit of accommodativeness among the various political organisations. In the long term I'm actually thinking about the democratic situation where everybody accepts and recognises the right of everyone to organise and to market their positions, political views, etc., to the market place of the voters.

POM     Just a couple of last questions. One is the alliance between the SACP and the ANC which seems to be becoming more of an issue. One, is it an issue which should be of increasing concern to the ANC, and two, many people that I talked to just before I came back criticised the ANC for not taking a position on the coup in the USSR. Do you think that was a legitimate criticism?

MM     To start with your last question, it probably is considering the fact that those were momentous events in the Soviet Union. I actually think that the ANC could have responded sooner but I cannot pass judgement as to why they couldn't respond sooner. The fact of the matter is that they didn't. It would have done us better to have been able to come up with a response that we had made so long. But of course given the nature of the situation in the Soviet Union one can understand why you would be reluctant to be bulldozed into a comment of one sort or the other about the situation in the Soviet Union because it also happened so fast that it was difficult to find out. Obviously most of the people who came up and tried to press out a response were those people who were very happy with what had happened there because they foresaw in fact the coming ascendance in the power of Boris Yeltsin, etc., who is perceived in many left circles as much more closer to Washington than anyone else that's been in the Soviet Union. So you can understand the concern and the caution with which the ANC actually approached the matter.

POM     And the first question, the question of the alliance itself? As a stumbling block? As an impediment to the process?

MM     I have politically been brought up in an environment which actually taught one to be accommodative of different views, of political persuasions, etc., and that is why I cannot be sympathetic to a position which seeks to press-gang the ANC to relinquishing its relationship with the Communist Party. I actually believe that at the end of the day it's not even for the ANC, it is for the SACP to find out and to define its own role and to determine whether it needs to continue a relationship with the ANC at this point in time. I actually think that as time goes on with the political situation unravelling and if you come to a point where elections need to take place I think each party that will be eligible to contest for an election would actually make its own decision and even the SACP should be subjected to the same, I would say, standards and procedures as every other party. At the end I don't think it should be the duty of political commentators to pass judgement and execute sentence but they can continue making their postulations and evaluations. Let them leave that to the electorate to decide how they go about their vote.

POM     Last question, Murphy, and this is something that you may help me to understand. I am struck when I talk to ordinary black people, I go and talk to them about their forgiveness towards whites to what seems to be an apparent lack of anger and bitterness having been brutalised for so many years. And then I contrast that with what's going on in Natal where most people I talk to from every side of the political divide and scholars would say that a considerable element of the violence in Natal is retributive, that is it's revenge killing and that these revenge killings play themselves out over cycles of time. I am struck by why is it that blacks could be so forgiving towards whites and yet so vengeful towards each other.

MM     I actually think that it's a question that has to do with understanding the specifics and relating it to the general because you could have the general perception that people are forgiving but even there you can't generalise. It's general enough but even within that there are certain specific situations where that does not really apply even on the question, and I may be sounding philosophical here, but even on the question of Natal for example it may well be that the perception is that people are so vengeful but it's because of the intensity of the way in which vengeance gets taken out that it actually even clouds the fact that even within that context there is also a very strong element of forgiveness and people wanting to go about their business even as this conflict goes on. That's why even in a number of situations you have communities that have been trying to make up and actually sort out these things amongst themselves so it is not just as plain as accommodative towards the whites and vengeful towards themselves. I don't think it's as black and white as that.

POM     OK. Thank you very much for the time. I will have this all transcribed in time. You should have the first transcript in about two weeks or less and will you be at this address for the rest of the year?

MM     I will be at this address until I get fired.

POM     If you spend this amount of time on the phone that will probably come sooner rather than later. I'll be over at Christmas and hope to get to see you again. Thanks Murphy.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.